Dolphins swim in the lagoon; pint-size guests zoom down the 175-foot waterslide; a bride poses on the grand staircase; a fire-bearing runner lights the torches along the seaside path at sunset—these are some of the typical scenes at this 62-acre megaresort. Shaded pathways lined with a multimillion-dollar Pacific Island art collection connect the three tall buildings, while Swiss-made trams and canal boats shuttle those who want to bypass the long hallways and meandering paths. Though there's no ocean beach, there is a seaside trail to Anaehoomalu Bay, aka A-Bay, one of the island's larger beaches. An ocean-side saltwater lagoon is great for families. Modern rooms in neutral tones have private lanai and are large enough to accommodate the families that flock here. Brides-to-be, take note: this is one-stop shopping, as the resort has a wedding planner, cakes, flowers, photography, and a "Just Married" boat ride.
YOU SHOULD KNOW In addition to your room rate, be sure to budget in the extras that you’ll need to pay once on-site, like parking. Guests are limited to one free classes or activity per day, unless they want to pay an additional $15 per class. Restaurants can also be a bit on the pricier side.
Guests can choose rooms in three different towers. The Ocean Tower offers a variety of views and proximity to a pool and dining options. The Palace Tower is the most modern of the towers, close to the main lagoon, a pool, and the pizza joint. MAKAI at Lagoon Tower is the most premium of accommodations, with lots of special perks and easy access to a pool, dining, and the lagoon.
Rooms include ocean view (ranging from partial to oceanfront) and resort view, with choice of king bed, two double beds, two queen beds, there are also suite options in each tower. Decor is island-inspired and fresh looking.
If you don’t want to spend a large portion of your vacation walking to your room, try booking in the lagoon tower. It includes some nice ocean view options and is closer to the lobby than the ocean tower.
Bathrooms are fairly spacious, with simple decor and tub/shower combos. Bathrooms feature the hotel’s signature Kohala Spa Coco Mango toiletries.
The partially open-air lobby is an unusually eclectic mix of colors and designs. It doesn’t have much seating, but is quite large, giving guests plenty of space to maneuver. The Hawaiian art featured throughout is a nice treat.
There are three pools at this hotel, including an adults-only pool and large kids pool with gradient depth and splash pads. The main pool is a massive freeform pool that includes waterfalls and a 175-foot water slide, surrounded by a sundeck, loungers, and some cabanas.
In addition to the pool is the lagoon, a big draw for guests. The lagoon is four acres in size, ocean-fed, and includes a nice white sand beach.
Guests of the Kohala Spa can choose from treatments that incorporate the four natural elements, along with ingredients from the islands. Oceanside treatments are available, as well. Other services include island baths, hair removal, and tropical mani/pedi, among others.
The gyms are divided into two rooms, one for cardio and one for strength. The rooms are fairly unremarkable, though have a decent amount of machines available. In addition, guests can utilize the two golf courses and eight tennis courts (with full-service pro shops) for some outdoor fitness.
There’s a staggering choice of more than 10 dining options at the resort, ranging from ice cream and grab and go to oceanfront fine dining and a gastropub. Grab breakfast at Big Island Breakfast at Water’s Edge or a quick to-go coffee, smoothie, or croissant at two locations (the lagoon location includes a waffle station). Eat lunch poolside or grab a burger and mai tai near the lagoon. Dinner options include beachside Italian food and a massive luau.
There are almost as many drinking options as there are for dining, including the Kona Tap Room with an array of local beers, Kamuela Provision Co’s bar for handcrafted, signature cocktails, and cocktails by the lagoon.
You’ll need a car to reach your accommodations and explore the rest of the island.
At Lava Lava Beach Club (7-min drive) you’ll find a menu that includes happy hour specials, daily fish preparations, and island twists on classic foods like hamburgers and ribs all right on the beach. The bar is also a huge draw, with delicious and strong cocktails (the “Big Bamboocha” will definitely get your vacation started well) and a nice wine menu.
If you booked a Hawaiian vacation mostly because you love poke and seafood, you’ll definitely want to stop by Sun Dried Specialties (55-minute drive) – the name might not leave much of an impression, but the food definitely will.
Get drinks and a show at Gertrude’s Jazz Bar (40-min drive), an open-air jazz bar with great beer and wine selections, plus a few decadent desser-tinis to complement their cocktail list.
Kona Brewing Company (38-min drive) has some of the best pizza you’ll find in Hawaii, paired with a fun atmosphere and the chance to taste a variety of their famous brews.
WHY WE LIKE IT
The expansiveness of this 62-acre resort may be a turn-off for some, but the hotel has turned its size into part of the experience by featuring trams and canal boats. There are plenty of fun activities to choose from, some excellent resort shopping.